Gen. Mattis

Mattis: C4ISR needs to empower small units

DOD will institutionalize lessons learned in irregular warfare

The evolving nature of threats to the United States and its allies will require more flexible forces and the delivery of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities down to a much lower level than before.

Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, expressed that vision in his keynote address today at the Joint Warfighting Conference in Virginia Beach, Va., co-sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute.

“The bottom line is that we will not face wars with clearly defined beginnings or clearly defined ends,” Mattis said. “We’re going to have to protect our people from manifold threats. It’s up to us to orchestrate a great rethinking of how to defend” them.

Mattis said the Defense Department will institutionalize the advancements made in irregular warfare operations without impairing its ability to fight more conventional conflicts. DOD must find ways “to maintain our strategic superiority while building a force that can fight irregular threats,” he added.

“The irregular threat is large, but interstate warfare is still a possibility,” he said. “It’s not an either/or. We cannot bifurcate the enemy threat.”

“No fire team on the ground should not be able to pull down joint intelligence and joint fires,” he said. In the emerging model for joint operations, junior noncommissioned and commissioned officers would have access to information and the authority to call for support from other combatants in ways that previously might have only been available to larger units.

That requirement is part of the need Mattis spoke of for a military force that can break down into small teams for operations among a population or for irregular warfare, and then come back together for larger operations.

In addition to empowering small units, Mattis said, DOD must continue to improve its ability to work with allies and coalition partners. “We must have a coalition-friendly command and control and approach to operations,” he said.

He outlined the roles joint forces will face: combat; security operations; engagement with other nations, including civil affairs operations; and reconstruction. “We can’t just go blow it all up and walk away,” he said.

Mattis also said joint forces must know how to operate in the absence of technological tools. “Our communications links are going to be cut more often than not. We must assume that they are going to go down.”

The nature of the conflicts in Iraq created a generation of DOD leaders who never had to worry about such challenges because of the enemy’s lack of signals intelligence and the United States’ information dominance on the battlefield, he said. The military cannot afford to assume that it will have that kind of dominance in the future, he added.

About the Author

Sean Gallagher is senior contributing editor for Defense Systems.

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